Faith and Trials

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is much more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong, through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. I Peter 1:6-7 NLT

Trials–not fun, especially if we are talking about legal proceedings, but we aren’t. These trials Peter is talking about are a test of our faith, patience, or our stamina. Do we have what it takes to really run our race. We all have this type of trial. So many people I meet lately are going through their own “something”. It could be health-wise, financial, relationship, grief—they come in various forms and they are things that we have to “endure” as the above scripture says. Endure: suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently. The word endure, to me, implicates something that is difficult or painful, lasting longer than I would like! Although our actions might have led to our “trial, ” it then becomes something out of our control.Normally, we don’t have control when they stop. The good news is that they can serve a good purpose if we approach it right! Instead of moaning and groaning, can we count it all joy when they come? And they come.

Peter is honest when he uses another word that is also difficult: many. It’s not a one and done kind of thing. Trials appear often and regularly in this life. The good news is they are, according to Peter, “a little while”. Our definition of a “little while” may differ from our wonderful Heavenly Father’s. If we keep our eye on the trial or on the clock, I find it just makes them harder to endure.

So if we are going to experience them, how are we encouraged to get through them? Peter clarifies that they have a purpose. The purpose is to test our faith. They are part of God’s process to purify us. God desires us to reflect His beauty and image. We can only do that if the impurities are removed. Not easy. Have you ever met someone who has endured their set of trials–but were full of joy and grace? Those are the disciples who allowed the Holy Spirit to work the process. Although, I never met Corrie Ten Boom, reading about her life is so inspiring. They arrested her and her sister after the Nazis discovered they were hiding Jews during World War 11. After their arrest in February 1944, they were transferred to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. They ministered to their fellow prisoners, sharing the gospel as they could. It was a sad day, December 16, when her sister Betsy died. Miraculously, Corrie was released on Christmas day, 1944. She later discovered it was because of a clerical error. When she was freed, she became a “tramp for the Lord”, and shared her story. It is inspiring and amazing. By God’s grace, she forgave the guards who mistreated them. Her story is real and transparent. The lessons learned were genuine. Her faith came shining through Testimonies like hers help me keep perspective on my own trials. If you haven’t heard of her, it’s worth the read.

So, how do we successfully endure our trials? By looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 KJV Our Savior endured his painful execution on the cross, and the separation of His Father for our benefit. He took on himself the sins of this world (including yours and mine) so it would restore our relationship with God. So much more painful that what we must go through here on earth. My friends, when going through your trials, do not become bitter, weary, or quit. Lean into Him, lean onto Him and trust Him. Choose to allow your trials to make you better rather than bitter. As it is a “trial of your faith, “choose to grow in your faith. Take the time to follow Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:29; Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. Seek Him during your trials, knowing He wants to teach us how to walk through them. This is where the fellowship of our suffering can come into play.

This is a perfect time to remind us. We ought not compare ourselves among ourselves as 2 Corinthians 10:12 exhorts us. We are not to judge the whys or the wherefores of other’s trials, our job is to pray for those going through them. We can’t rate the severity of one another’s trials (she has it worse than I do, or nobody has it worse that me); but we need to stand together interceding for them. Trials are here to stay as long as we draw breath, let us allow the Holy Spirit to make the most of them, right?

Father, I thank you that we can trust you to bring us through any trial that comes our way. I thank you that you use these trials for our good–that the trying of our faith is more precious than gold. Remind us, when we want to quit, just how you endured the cross, for our sakes. Teach us your ways, for we want to not only learn of you, but to know you more. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Faith and “Senior” Life”

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. But I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more. Psalm 71: 9, 14

For years my husband and I used the familiar motto: “The Best is Yet to Come” regarding our hope of growing old together and enjoying long life. As I move into this season, alone, without him, I realize the “best is yet to come” applies more to heaven than years here on earth. I am writing this, not to make anyone fearful or concerned for me (or those like me!) but to shed some light on this topic.

Some folks think I am old, others who are older than I am think I am just learning about old age…hmm it is a matter of perspective. At 73, my body has begun to let me know that I have used my bones for 73 years. They are stiffer than they used to be and as the Psalmist has written, “forsake me not when my strength is spent”, because it takes me longer to replenish my strength than when I was younger.

A few years ago, several Church leaders I know across the U.S. went through health challenges. Some passed away from them. At the time, Darryl and I were strong and healthy. My heart hurt for them and their families. My perspective, we need to pray for them (but secretly I was glad it was them, not me!)Then April 2010, Darryl suffered his heart attack and massive stroke, and I entered what I call “a school of suffering”. After 2 1/2 years of caregiving, he passed. Our “the best is yet to come”, ended. God entered me into another “class”, the class of widowhood. Neither of these classes were electives, but required if I wanted to move ahead.

So far, in my “senior” journey, I’ve learned to adjust my expectations of what I think (or thought) life would be, or should be. Leaning into and onto my relationship with our God has been essential. Through the mysteries of life (like all the “whys”) I choose to trust His character. Watching many deal with health issues (including mental deterioration) is so sad, and I openly admit, has caused me a bit of anxiety when I wonder if that will be my situation. If I let myself, I wonder if I will become a dependent burden on my children. I choose to simply pray and do my best We have to decide that God is good. That He is working all things together for our good and no matter how easy or difficult our trials, we will choose to pray and praise Him.

I can not speak for every senior. My friends parents celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this year, but the wife had dementia for the past few years and had to be in a facility. Not easy, but her Dad loved his wife well till the end. Some of these trials are not about us, but they are to show forth the glory of the Lord, and leave a legacy of faith for those coming after.

My friends, no matter what stage of life you are in, you need to grow in faith. Whatever “school” you are in (marriage, parenting, leadership or employee etc.) those lessons will help prepare you for your “senior” years. Learning to trust Him in your own “whys” at whatever point you are in, will hold you in good stead as you grow older. Learning to love those around you, no matter what state they are in, will also be a blessing in your older years. It was hard to watch people around me treat my wonderful husband with disrespect because he was walking slow, or acting a “bit different”, but I learned from it. Every person has a story, don’t judge.

I’ve learned that, as we do trust Him, life can be good, even though it is different. I love my life, but still carry a sadness Darryl isn’t here to enjoy it with me. I am mostly healthy, I have great friends, a good church and God assignments that bring me joy and blessing. They are different than before, but that is ok. Keep walking my “senior” friends. Do not get discouraged. Do not quit. Do not think your influence for His kingdom’s sake is over. It is not. Prayer, praise and purpose are still ours–no matter what our numbers are bodies tell us! We choose to trust: I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. Isaiah 46:4 NLT What a wonderful promise.

Yes, it seems like some of our trials and tests seem to get harder as we age, but if we apply the lessons learned, we will pass them well. Open your eyes to God’s goodness. Sometimes loneliness is hard at our age–look out, find another lonely friend and do life together. Ask God for wisdom on how to turn every negative into a positive. He is still a very present time in every trouble.

Father, I thank you for loving us in every season of life. I thank you we can trust you, no matter what happens. I ask that you encourage the lonely, the ill and the struggling today–no matter their age. You are a good God, doing good things and we will not believe anything less, In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Finishing

It is finished. John 19:30 NLT

Finishing. It is a good feeling. Last fall I finished all the editing, the designing, (with uncertainty) and declared my book, Faith Encounters, was done. It felt both amazing and scary. I no longer had the weight of working to complete it—it was now in the hands of the publisher. This past weekend, I held my first book signing. It was amazing. People actually came! They were excited for me. It was a joy to pray for some, even amid the book signing. We held it at our local Christian Bookstore. It blessed them, because it drew new customers to their store. Because of mailing issues, I actually ran out of the books I had to sign. I don’t expect it to be a best seller, but I believe it is a blessing.

It was great that people came and bought it, but it is even better to hear from those that have actually read it! This is the part that really touches my heart. One person who has read it, wrote on Facebook: Today, Martha Rodman is having a book signing event at His Place Christian Book and Gifts! Her new devotional has been so encouraging to me. It’s not a “cookie and tea” devotional that seems so repetitive on today’s market. Ya know, the one with fluffy words and a Bible verse at the end that kind of goes with the content. This one is different! It’s collective wisdom that’s shared with a refreshing level of transparency and relevance. It’s the kind of book that really makes you feel seen and motivated to press forward. (Thank you Selena-rae Chavez-Snyder) Reading her so kind words made me feel seen and heard. It was worth the press of finishing it, to know that it encourages people to move forward. Hers isn’t the only encouraging word I have had, and for that I am humbled and grateful.

For a time, I was content to be in the middle—to be “writing a book”. It made me feel good to be in the process. However, there came a time where that in-between time felt stale, old and unproductive. I actually had to finish it to accomplish the purpose. My daughter, Elizabeth, really helped me to understand the need to finish it. All my hard work and the work of others (editing and encouraging) would profit no one if I didn’t finish my course (and the book!). Often time, we need others to help us finish. I know I did with this project. But sometimes it is just you and Jesus, and when that happens, it has to be enough. When I needed help, God provided help and wisdom. He will with your assignments too—if you ask Him.

I wonder how Jesus felt when he uttered those words from the cross, then bowed his head and died. Jesus had ministered for three plus years. But His work would not have accomplished the goal if He had not gone to the cross. He could not have brought about the reconciliation between God and man if He had not finished His course. I want to encourage each of us to start “finishing” things God has called us to. Maybe it is not as concrete as writing and publishing a book, but take those God assignments and do them. Some things that need finishing are our thoughts. We get an inspiration to reach out to someone, but it stays just there…as an inspiration. I want to encourage you to write that letter, call that person, send that text—whatever, He has been putting on your heart, it’s time to do it. Finish that thought through action. See a vision for a new ministry? A business? A book? Blog or podcast? Follow through. Figure out your next step, gather your team and decide to finish.

To be honest, I am not sure what to do next…people have asked me if there will be a Volume 2. I am still praying about that—but I know there will come a time that the “prayer” season will be over and I will need to start whatever He says, and get to the finish line. If it was important enough for the Lord to put something on your heart to do, then it is important not only for yourself, but for others that you finish it. Don’t let fear, insecurity, or even pride prevent you from your finish line. Keep going, my friends.

One day, all our races will be done. We don’t know when, but let’s do our best with the power of the Holy Spirit, while we can.

Father, I ask you to help us finish our race. If it is important enough for you to ask us, help us make it important enough to finish. Some of us are good starters, but we struggle to finish. Help us, by your grace, mercy and wisdom, to choose to keep going, despite any obstacles. We choose to trust you, dear Lord. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

If you are interested in purchasing my book, it’s available on Amazon; both Kindle and print versions.

Faith and Good Soil?

Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted. Mark 4:8 NLT

Reading through what is known as the parable of the sower, I began to think about the different soils that Jesus describes. The seed sown alongside the path, the seed sown on rocky soil, the seed sowed among the thorns and then of course, the seed sown in the good soil. I thought about my own heart…could there be all four types of soil in my own heart? I had to admit it is true. Especially as a young child, without the understanding I have now not all the seed sown into my life was able to grow and develop. But even, now I can see aspects of different soil types that are in different areas of my own hear as the Holy Spirit works.

By God’s grace, I am so grateful that enough seed fell on good soil that I was able to accept Jesus as my Savior, and keep on walking with Him. As a college student, I determined to “take a break” from church and reading my Bible, etc. But the Holy Spirit did not let me alone. In fact, He orchestrated steps in my life that actually brought me into an even greater connection and surrender to Him. My heart breaks for the “rocky” soil people. I think the Kingdom of God suffers some bad reps because of rocky soil people.

Those began with joy, but the seed did not take good root, like it should have and so they walked away having “tested” Christianity, but not really allowing the seed to take root. I asked the Lord, as I was reading these verses, “Is it possible to help people avoid being “rocky soil” people”. I felt like He said, ‘Keep on walking and bearing good fruit. Help those you can deal with the rocks that come up in their lives’.

My husband loved to garden. We had our home in Oregon for ten years. He dug a large garden area and we had abundance of harvest every year. But what I noticed as I helped him at times, each year we had to work the soil. In the winter as the soil froze and thawed new rocks would rise to the surface and had to be dealt with. I think that we, as believers, need to be careful and deal with any rocks or hard places that storms and difficulties can cause. I really have no control over another’s soil, only my own. I know of people who apparently walked with the Lord for years, back away. It is their story to tell, but I wonder if their roots weren’t as solid as it seemed. Or perhaps, it wasn’t the rocky soil that got them, but the seed sown among the thorns. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. they fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. Mark 4:17 NLT By doing life together, I believe we can help each other navigate problems and stand together when persecuted, so maybe we can help keep some from falling away.

The seed that falls into thorny ground is concerning. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. Mark 4: 18-19. NLT Every believer needs to watch out for the tempter that comes to lure us away from the truth. The worries of this life are many. It is important to help teach every new believer how to walk through struggles and storms. I know we, as teachers and leaders, need to do our best to “instruct others in the way they should go”. Show them how to lean on the Lord during difficulties by our own example. Asking for help when we need it! Keeping our hearts tender and submitted to His ways can bear only good fruit from our lives.

In this parable, Jesus let us know that in reality, not all who hear will bear thirty, sixty or one hundred fruit…but let us strive to keep our soil soft and receptive to the good seeds sown into our hearts. Walking in forgiveness, being tenderhearted toward others, cultivating the fruit of the Spirit and not giving into the works of the flesh will help keep our hearts ready for His seeds. He believes we can do it, so we can.

Father, I thank you for your seeds being sown into our hearts. I ask that you keep teaching us how to keep our soil receptive to these seeds. That we keep our listening ears tuned to your words and your ways. I pray for those I know who have walked away, that you will keep working in their lives to help them turn back. May my example of walking through with you hard things, help others, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Faith and Loss

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 ESV

My friend passed into the arms of Jesus this week. We had a wonderful conversation a few weeks ago…she wanted me to reserve a copy of my book for her. We talked about Jesus, as usual. She loved him in a very quiet, but fierce, way. I am happy for her. She is no longer in pain and dealing with the health struggles of older age. I don’t know if she really understood how much value she added to those around her.

Losing a friend, family member, or spouse leaves a hole. It just does. I think that is a testimony of loving and caring for someone. It is God’s way of reminding us to love those who are present in our lives. I listened to someone explain why Jewish people put stones on the headstones of their loved ones instead of flowers. They said it is to remind them they are eternal beings. There is a permanence about them and rocks symbolize that. Flowers fade too quickly for them. There is joy knowing that Anne is with the Lord, rejoicing in His love, and she understands all that we don’t.

The word translated “precious” means of high worth, value, or cost. In the Hebrew, the word translated “saints” means those who are the faithful followers of the Lord. God cares about how and when His people pass from death unto life. The New Living Translation declares that the Lord cares deeply when his loved one’s die. He who watches over us, watches over that transition as well. We are precious to him in life. It is only understandable that we would be precious to him in death. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t really comprehend how precious people are in our lives until after they are gone. After we have lost the ability to interact and learn from them. Then it is too late. I know we hear this a lot—but we often need reminding, love while you can. When it is over, it is over.

Sometimes the way people die is confusing to our perspective. Anne fell, hit her head and a few days later passed. She, as far as I understand, never regained consciousness. For her family and friends, our last conversation would be the last time we heard her voice. I am grateful that my last conversation with her was positive and uplifting. We had made plans to connect—I guess that will have to wait.

I can’t get away from the word “precious”. God knows how costly it is for our loss as well. As we walk through this loss, he knows how to comfort us and care for us. He knows how to teach us through it. He knows how to use it for our good, if we let Him. This week as I read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah I noticed there were several lists given of individuals. Scripture memorialized them forever. They listed some because they married foreigners (negative), others because they helped with rebuilding the temple and the wall (positive). While we, who are alive, have choices to make concerning our contribution to God’s Kingdom. Will we choose to add value to it, or choose our own ways? I know Anne had some regrets about her life. We talked about them. The good news is she was working on changing and correcting them, and trusting Jesus with those things she couldn’t change. I regret not taking the time to be with her more.

My friends, any loss is painful. Let us learn from it. Let us love stronger and longer. Let us forgive quickly and encourage those around us to do the same. In Revelation 18, we find a phrase repeated twice: in a single moment (vs 17, 19). It is true about opportunities; they come and go in a single moment. Let’s make use of them, ok?

Father, I am so grateful you see us as precious, both in life and in death. I ask that you help us honor and respect those around us as precious as well. Please comfort Anne’s family and all who have lost loved ones this past year. Grief continues long after the memorial service is over, so we ask that you teach us how to comfort with words and actions.Once again,we ask you to help us number our days. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and My Prayer

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Merry Christmas, dear Ones;

As we are so close to celebrating Christmas, I just wanted to take from the Apostle Paul’s example, and pray a prayer for you and your family.

Father, I pray for everyone reading this prayer. I am so grateful you are a God who hears and answers. I John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

I ask that as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we will take the time to ponder what an amazing gift you gave us. I am still humbled by the overwhelming love that took. May we all take time to appreciate what it took for you to leave heaven and come to earth. And not only come, but complete the entire sacrifice simply because you love us. Thank you, Father.

I am grateful you are a God who helps us in our time of need. Father, I ask you strengthen everyone who is feeling weak and overwhelmed right now. That you will show them the path they need to take through the wilderness, out of the darkness or even in the valley of the shadow of death. You don’t just leave us to find our way through, out or in, you want to help us in our time of trouble, and for that I praise you.

I thank you for being a God who is “with” us, Immanuel. I trust you are revealing yourself to your people right now, wherever they are. That you are opening our eyes to see you in your fullness, your power and your mercy. Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

I am grateful that you are a God who doesn’t leave us as we are, but, as we allow, you are causing us to grow up and mature in our thoughts and our actions. These character traits aren’t always easy to learn, but we trust our Good Teacher is instructing us and we can learn to do things your way. Your word declares that your way is best. Psalm 86:11 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. O dear Lord, we know if our hearts are surrendered to you, united to serve you we will be able to accomplish your will for our lives.

I ask that you fill my friends with your joy today. A joy that holds expectation and hope. A joy that will bring strength and anticipation into their lives. A joy that will overflow into others and make a difference. Joy that comes from their asking big prayers, and them seeing the answers. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. 1 Peter 1:8

Father, I ask that you fill us with your love, for perfect love casts away all fear. 1 John 4:18. I thank you that you conquered death, fear and the grave. I ask that you equip us for the journey ahead, no matter what or where it leads us. We need not fear the future, because you are already there. I choose to trust you today with my family, my friends and those who will read these words. May they be drawn closer and closer to you and your ways. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Merry Christmas to each of you. Thank you for taking time to read my words.

Faith and Jesus: Savior? Lord?

He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. Revelation 1:13-15 NLT

One of the blessings of deciding to read the bible through in a year is your find yourself reading in places that your natural mind wouldn’t take you. I have always been a bit hesitant to believe that I could actually read the book of Revelation with any kind of understanding. But, once again I am trying as I release my faith, to ask the Holy Spirit to help me receive what He wants me to receive from it. It has been different. Each day, I gain some new insights, some are comforting, some are challenging.

Christmas is a time of celebrating Jesus’ amazing birth story. It is filled with awe and wonder and of course the miracle conception and fulfillment of God’s promise, but (I know these are not “new” thoughts) if we leave him in the manger we lose sight of who he is now. Parents often have trouble allowing their children to grow up. But, one day, it happens they are grown men and women and we begin to see who they really are! Reading through the gospel story, we understand this babe grew to a man so despised he was cruelly crucified on a cross, dying to become our Savior. We celebrate his resurrection over the power of sin and death in our lives.

John, isolated on the isle of Patmos had an encounter with Jesus that changed his life, and through his writings, desires to change ours. Jesus reigning with his father, demands our honor, respect and obedience. Not because he is a cruel taskmaster, but because of who he really is. He is Lord. He is Sovereign and he reigns. So many of us, as his children are so flippant to his words, we take them as optional. I think if we, like John saw this Son of Man, complete with eyes like flames of fire, feet like polished bronze and a voice thundering like ocean waves our response to him, might be different.

In 1968 I was a student at the University of Washington I had an encounter with the Lord. It was a cold, rainy day in Seattle. I spent several hours walking the streets praying and allowing the Holy Spirit to touch my heart. My final revelation that day: Jesus is my Savior, now would I allow him to be Lord? I can still remember that encounter. It was so real. I bowed my heart to him that day. I simply said, yes. It began a journey that continues, with many more opportunities to test my decision that day.

As I have grown and matured I have a different picture of my parents, than I did as a child. I believe as we grow and mature as believers, we also see our Heavenly Father, Jesus, his son and the Holy Spirit with more maturity. One day when Jesus returns, it will be the Son of Man, John saw. There will be no question of who we bow to, then. I believe we will see so clearly who he really is. I know I don’t always see him or relate to him as the Lord of Heaven’s armies, but I want to. In Revelation chapter 5, John sees him as Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. (Interesting picture, right?) I think we need to pray for a clearer revelation of who he really is. He is both the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God. He embodies them both. When we choose to accept him as Savior, we also need to understand his lordship. It’s part of growing in our relationship with him.

Father, we need your help in understanding who you really are. Our natural minds conjure up meek, mild mannered man which nothing seems to bother. But you do get bothered. Reading about your attitudes toward the seven churches, shows us your concerns. Help us Lord, to really see you, at least in a way we can handle. Forgive us for taking your gifts (like salvation, forgiveness, mercy and hope) but not being willing to take your orders. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Darkness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 NLT

A few weeks ago, our area experienced a large windstorm and our power went out. It was a cold, dreary, now dark experience. I am fortunate and live in the center of our town–so we seem to a priority for the power company. Many people’s power went off in the evening, while mine didn’t go out until 7:00 in the morning, but it was still difficult to see.

I had actually prepared this summer for expected power outages by replacing the used batteries in my best flashlight. It is a fancy type with flashers, a radio, a broad light and a typical flashlight type headlamp. I admit I felt a little smug—I knew where my flashlight was and I was prepared! I had an emergency light that extinguished the darkness.

My Bible, New Spirit Filled Life Bible, has a feature called “word wealth”. It is a help that gives a bit more insight into different Hebrew or Greek words. It defines the word “extinguish” in John 1:5. “Extinguish, katalambano Strongs#2638. The word is capable of three interpretations: 1. to seize, lay hold of, overcome. As such, v.5 could read ‘the darkness does not gain control of it.’ 2. To perceive, attain, lay hold of with the mind, to apprehend with mental or moral effort. With this meaning the verse could be translated, “the darkness is unreceptive and does not understand it’. 3. To quench, extinguish, snuff out the light by stifling it. ‘The darkness will never be able to eliminate it.’ Light and darkness essentially are antagonistic. The Christian’s joy is in knowing that light is not only greater than darkness but will also outlast the darkness.

Darkness can be disorienting, fearful and a thief. It can rob of us of joy, hope and expectation, because it robs us of our seeing. It gives opportunity for our imaginations to run wild. However, when we understand that our God is light. He has given us that light and with that light we are able to walk in confidence–because His word is a lamp to guide my feet and is a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 NLT When we find ourselves in “darkness” in any situation or difficulty we must run to God’s Word. That requires submission and humility, and maybe some time to actually seek out what it has to say.

There are a couple of things implied in this scripture. One is movement. We are looking to navigate through a dark or at least low lit area as safely as possible. The promise of this verse is that God’s Word will give us exactly that–enough light to move ahead. We may not be able to see clearly all around us, but we will have enough wisdom, insight or direction to safely take the next step. This involves trust and submission. Both things which aren’t natural in dark places. As we follow him and his ways we know that his path leads to life, truth and freedom. He will not lead us to wickedness or evil. Romans 12;2 instructs us: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. We must be honest and admit when we walk our own selves into darkness through disobedience, sin. Before we can walk farther, we must repent, turn from our wicked ways and back to the light. Of course, this implies that we are willing to let go of our own selfish, fearful ways, and follow him. This lamp, God’s Word, that guides our feet will only lead us to knowing him and his ways in a deeper, fuller measure.

Sometimes, our paths do lead us into suffering and trials. It can feel very dark. I want remind you that this darkness does not have the power to extinguish your faith, love or future. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not need to fear any evil lurking there. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 ESV When we take the time to remember we are never alone in the dark places because our Sovereign God is with us. peace comes. When our walk with him, becomes more about our relationship with him, than what we think we want, we will choose to follow no matter when he leads.

My friends, the darkness of this world (Satan and his minions) do not control this world. Please understand, that God has not abdicated. He is ruling and reigning, right now, whether we see it or not (dark places). He wants us to understand and live our lives in such a manner. That is why it is important for us to follow him, because he not only has the light, but is the light of the world. The smallest candle has power over the darkness. He has commissioned us to be part of that light. Let us let our light (which was lit by him) shine bright in this dark world, it needs us.

Father, we need you to really help us understand how strong and powerful your light is. Every fear, torment and lie that rises up against your truth we turn back now in Jesus’ Name. We choose to walk in the light, we choose to follow the lamp you have given us (your word) and I ask that you continue to instruct us how to shine brighter in this dark world, In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Faith and Advent

Advent: the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. It’s here. The beginning of the celebration of Christ’s birth–definitely the most notable person we know! For the past three years, my dear daughter Elizabeth Haslet has created an interactive Advent coloring book. Each year focus’s on a different aspect of Christmas. It is an amazing opportunity for families to interact together with scripture, Christmas carols, recipes and places to journal your thoughts and make new memories. There are two pages for each day leading up to Christmas morning. Adding it to my December devotional time has helped me really focus on the season, instead of simply reading through the book of Revelation!

Day 1 is entitled an Invitation. She describes the joy of receiving an invitation to a birthday party, complete with anticipation, joy and maybe a bit of stress. But she includes a warning, if you will. But be careful. Please don’t miss out on the greatest invitation of all! To spend time with Jesus Himself. How awful to go to a birthday party and never get to spend any time with the birthday kid! We come because we care and want to be with our friend or family member. Jesus wants that too. He wants to spend time with you this Christmas. He wants to be in the middle of every decoration, event, food making, joyouse memories, and yes even in the messes and sorrows that can come at this time of year. He wants to be in the middle of all of it.

So open His invitation! Come and sit as his feet. Kneel if you want to, but let’s dedicate this precious season to Jesus. Let’s include Him in everything we do. As the bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray with out ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

My friends, let’s choose to celebrate this wonderful notable amazing Savior. Traditions are wonderful in building legacy and memories, but they can be even sweeter if we intertwine our faith in them. Ask Him for creative ideas, He loves to share. One year, on Christmas morning we spontaneously began giving “verbal” gifts and words of affirmation to each other. It has become a very meaningful part of our family sharing time since then. Christmas card writing is dwindling away–but when I send cards I like to take the time to write something personal to each recipient. If I am going to spend the time and stamps–let’s make it meaningful right? I know many take the time to find the right sentiment on the card they purchase and that is very special as well.

Sometimes, we might need to stop doing a tradition. I have made fudge for my neighbors for a few years. Last year one neighbor glared at me (he and his wife are now divorced) and another neighbor chose not to answer their door! It might have been a Covid thing. (A whole other story) I’m feeling a bit intimidated about this year…but we shall see. I think I was forcing a “good” thing, instead of a God thing.

We know He isn’t the newborn babe lying in a manger anymore. But that did happen and it is a good thing to celebrate his advent, but even more our relationship with him.

Faith and Faith Accomplished

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11: 1 NLT

There are times when our faith is no longer a “substance of things hoped for”, it becomes real. For several years, I wrote a newsletter entitled “Real Women” as part of Impart Ministry (the mobile ministry we led together). The purpose was to encourage all Christian women, but especially those called into leadership, to pursue God’s best for their lives. Then my world shattered. My husband suffered a massive stroke, and I put everything on hold for the two and half years as I cared for him.. God took him home in 2012. I was at a loss on how to regain some kind of normalcy without him. Should I even return to writing?

Not only had my world changed, but so had the world. People weren’t too interested in printed newsletters, anymore. My children encouraged me to switch to writing a “blog”. With the help of my son and his research we discovered Word Press. He filled in all the forms and named it “Faith Encounters”. I loved the name and it challenged the scope and focus of each blog. My friend, Jim Stephens, writes Grace Notes everyday! I knew that I couldn’t possibly be that diligent and productive, so I settled on a once a week schedule. Some weeks I couldn’t wait to write, others I admit, I dreaded. Most weeks, it was simple obedience to my Lord that kept me writing. But weeks turned into months, which turned into years. Once again my children and some persistent friends, said, “Martha, you need to turn this into a book”.

As I was praying, struggling and thinking through the idea of really turning it into a book, I face the wall of finances. How could I in reality fund this project? Then, as only our Heavenly Father could do, He provided funding through another ministry, when my leader friend died from Covid. So that mountain was removed.

But, then I faced another mountain. The mountain of insecurity.and it rose up strong and proud. Why should I think people would want to read what I write? The “who am I” question pounded my emotions. Finally I settled it, when I simply asked: Lord, is this what you want? I felt Him say yes. So I began re-reading past posts, culling the ones that received the most responses and slogging through the editing process. It was work. It took time and energy and focus. I hit the wall of resistance so many times, I just wanted to quit. My daughter and son helped with some of the editing when I hit that wall. We truly need others to help us accomplish God’s purpose and plan in our lives. Some days my resolve came from “it’s a kegacy I can leave for my grandchildren”, along with the simple obedience,

Faith started arising as I could see it coming together. I got more comfortable with the rhythm of the process. Then I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to finish it. I had grown comfortable in the in-between place, but I couldn’t stay there. I had to keep moving. One day in church, our pastor, Michael Hurley, said something about faith and words—and I felt I was supposed to ask him if he would write the foreword. I am not even sure if he remembered I was working on this project! Anyway, I stepped out in faith and asked! He said yes! I had to overcome my insecurity to ask him…another step of faith.

There was still another mountain left to climb. Which publishing company should I use? So many to choose from, so many choices to make. It was overwhelming. My friend told me about a company called ” Book Baby” and it seemed to make sense to use them. I did not have enough courage and confidence to approach the major publishing companies that pay you, so I went with Book Baby! So another faith step with so many learning curves to climb began. I learned to ask for help and wait patiently for those who could help me. As I released my faith, our God showed up in so many ways. I encountered His mercy, His provision and His grace. I asked our worship director (who is also a photographer) to take my picture for the back cover, and he made me look good!

My friends, there were a lot of starts and stops along the way. As I went through the editing process, and re-read some posts I had written, I thought “this is good stuff”. This past Monday, two boxes were delivered and I got to hold in my hand what faith had accomplished. I don’t expect it to become a best seller, but I expect it to encourage, comfort and even challenge the reader to expect to have faith encounters with our Lord.

If nothing else, it was a step of obedience. Only our God knows how this accomplishment will be used. What fruit it will bear. It is the same with each of our lives. Friends, keep on walking in obedience. Do not let the walls of resistance stop you from accomplishing God’s purpose and plan in your life—no matter how big or small it may be.

Whenever your faith becomes substance—please take time to celebrate and share your story. The Bible refers to this as your testimony. My daughter bought balloons and their family took me out to dinner to rejoice in what faith has accomplished.

My book is now available through Book Baby (store.bookbaby.com/book/faith-encounters) or through Amazon. It is the fruit of not only my faith encounters—but those around me. I am humbled. I wonder, is it the book that faith accomplished? Or the lessons learned along the way? I think it is both.

Father, please help us trust you to obey your leading, no matter how big or how small. I thank you for your grace, mercy and faithfulness, that every step of faith we take leads us to the substance of our faith as we walk with you. Encourage us today to keep walking, and obeying you, in Jesus’ Name, amen.